Six Things You Must Do To Successfully Bid At Auction

Yesterday was the first preview day for the upcoming two day auction beginning on Tuesday. As it was a Saturday, it was encouraging that not too many interested buyers were there to look things over. This could also be wishful thinking on my part- antique dealers, my greatest competitors, are likely busy tending their shops and will preview the auction come Monday. Still, I am crossing my fingers that I won't have too much competition!

As I mentioned previously (here), there are some really terrific items coming up on the auction block. Pook and Pook, the auction house, is selective in what it takes on consignment and rarely will you find junk. Not to say the pieces are always in pristine condition because they certainly are not, but they are consistent in terms of quality.  

One of Pook and Pook's display rooms

It is not only fun to preview an upcoming auction at leisure, it is also an important opportunity to inspect the items you are interested in. You do not want to buy blindly or impulsively bid on an item in the hope that it will be a great deal. There are a number of ways to be prepared for auction so you can confidently and successfully bid and win!

 This lovely lady is up for auction

First, do your homework- understand how an auction works- don't arrive the day of the auction unprepared. Read about the auction process or attend an auction as a spectator to learn the ropes before attending as a bidder. Second, carefully inspect the item of interest. Look at overall condition, examine for any repairs and compare it to like items. Bad condition is not always necessarily a deal breaker. The item may still have value. Third, trust your auctioneer. Do they have a good reputation? Ask around and talk to other interested buyers who may be a useful source of information. Fourth, be sure to register in advance- this is important. Do not wait until the day of the auction as there is likely to be a line of latecomers pushing up the stress level. Fifth, use confidence in your bidding. If others are bidding on the same item, your forceful, albeit aggressive approach may signal that you are no rookie and intend to win, hopefully discouraging them from bidding further. Lastly, know your top number and stick to it- don't get caught up in auction fever like other silly unfortunates who just don't know when to stop and just kept bidding and bidding...well, ahem, let's move on.

Previewing the auction gave me an opportunity to determine what items I will bid on. I dropped a few from my list and added a few that I had overlooked in the online catalog. This illustrates the importance of previewing the auction in person. A picture does not always tell the whole story.  Remember the bee skep I had on my wish list? It is a marvelous piece but regretfully went from the auction block to the chopping block along with the demijohns (too big), the French globe (nothing special about it), the carved column (I actually completely forgot to preview it) and the Chinese garden stool (it was smaller than I imagined).

Still in the running are the pewter collection, the French baker's table and the Staffordshire. I have changed my mind on the pair of leather chairs estimated at $50-$100 and replaced them with an almost identical pair estimated at $200-$400 whose far superior condition warrants their price. The leather chairs are a great example of the importance of previewing items beforehand. I hadn't noticed that the first pair actually had fabric instead of leather seats. This is an important detail to me and had I bid on them without examining them first I would have been sorely disappointed!

The first pair of interest estimated at $50-$100. I did not notice the chair seats are fabric rather than  leather, an important detail to me.

The chairs I now intend to bid on are all leather. I had originally disregarded them as I thought they looked too bulky but in person they are proportionate in scale. Another example of the importance of an in person preview.

I also saw several paintings that I will bid on with a firmly capped price in mind. I may bid on a pair of inlaid mother of pearl nesting tables estimated at $100-$200 which are quite lovely in person but which did not catch my attention in the online catalog.
 In person view

Photo from the catalog- easy to overlook how beautiful these are!
Estimated $1500-$2000
Estimated $1400-$1800

There are other items which captured my attention but are beyond my budget. These Russian icons are breathtaking and I had to slap some sense into my head to keep from adding them to my already burgeoning list. Seriously, the photos do not do these exquisite pieces justice.

So, there you have it. I will do more research on my desired items to feel confident in my bidding. I will be assertive and somewhat forceful against competitive bidders (no one will know my heart will be pumping like mad and sweat will be pouring down my back). I am registered (No. 81) and ready to roll. I will have a set amount I am prepared to bid and not lose my mind. All things considered, that is the thing that worries me the most!
If you have attended or bid at auction, I would love to hear about your experience. Any information, ideas, counsel or caution you can suggest are of great interest!

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